welfare statism

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman, so far as I am aware, is still the agorist novel par excellence. More than three decades have passed since its publication — not that you would know it without looking at the copyright date — yet in that time no other novel has so successfully mixed the principles of agorism with such a keen perspective on the future. There are not many novels that can top it for entertainment value either.

The story takes place in what was then the future, but which now seems a very prescient present. Not only is the story filled with theretofore unrealized gadgets and technology that differ from what we actually possess sometimes by no more than an appellation, or occasionally a small feature or manner of use, but the economic conditions described in the tale read like a seer’s forecast.

Schulman’s knowledge of economics allowed him to make a forecast every bit as accurate as the one for which Ayn Rand, in her novel Atlas Shrugged, has been lauded of late. In fact, this very knowledge of economics is probably what helped the author predict all those gadgets, for it is well established that science-fiction authors, a group not known for their economic acumen, tend to think on a grand scale when most of the advances, in a consumer-driven society, are modest devices of everyday convenience and entertainment.

It is a dystopian world we are plunged into in Alongside Night, where central control of the economy and erosion of civil liberties proceed, as they must, hand in hand. When the government abducts the protagonist’s father, a noted free-market libertarian economist somewhere between Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises in his radicalness, the high school student Elliot Vreeland embarks on a quest to free him. This quest takes him into the world of the agorists, free-market rebels and masters of counter-economics.

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Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

I’m a little late with this post and I completely failed to send out the voting results email via our newsletter last month. All I can say right now is that I’ve been rather preoccupied with some momentous events for the site. First, I upgraded from shared hosting to a virtual private server (VPS) at DreamHost even though we’re not yet bringing in enough revenue to cover the significantly added cost. We’d simply outgrown shared hosting; the site was loading slowly and often failed to load at all, especially on the backend while trying to save and publish posts. Second, the new version of the theme I designed this site with, Thesis 2.0, was just released on the 1st. It’s a radically redesigned and powerful theme framework and I’ve been obsessed with scaling its steep relearning curve and redesigning Prometheus Unbound on it. Stay tuned for Prometheus Unbound 2.0. It’s gonna be awesome, if I do say so myself.

But enough with excuses… For the month of October, we are reading and discussing J. Neil Schulman’s classic dystopian science fiction novel Alongside Night, winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award and currently being adapted into a movie starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Andromeda):

The American economy is experiencing a systematic meltdown. The country is turning into a totalitarian police-surveillance state, but bold black-market enterprises use the latest technology to thrive. Anyone declared a terrorist by the administration is stripped of their Constitutional rights and sent to a secret federal prison. Caught in the middle of it all are the brilliant 17-year-old son of a missing Nobel Prize–winning economist (Dr. Vreeland), his best friend from prep school whose uncle was once a guerrilla fighter, and the beautiful but mysterious 17-year-old girl he meets in a secret underground… a girl who carries a pistol with a silencer.

The setting could be next week. But this Prometheus Hall of Fame Award–winning novel was written over three decades ago. And now it is being adapted into a film starring Kevin Sorbo as Dr. Martin Vreeland.

Our book giveaway is over, but if you missed out you can purchase a copy in Kindle or paper format at Amazon.com. Your purchase via our affiliate links will help support our work here at Prometheus Unbound.

Join us as we read and discuss Alongside Night. And stay tuned for the official event announcement of the upcoming live author chat with Schulman, hosted by Prometheus Unbound via Google+ Hangouts on Air.

You need not have voted on this month’s selection to join in the discussion, but you do need to be registered and logged in on this site to access the book club’s dedicated forums.

September Recap

I’ll update this post with a more extensive recap later in the month, followed by a full review, but for now I can say we enjoyed Jack Vance’s Emphyrio. The stylized prose and dialogue might not be for everyone, and the story takes a while to really get going (a lot of time is spent on background and setup), but the book is very enjoyable and worth a read. There is much for libertarians to appreciate in Emphyrio as well. The setting is a planet run as an welfare state by mysterious lords, in which the economy is artisan-based and any mass production or duplication is strictly prohibited and harshly punished. Events lead the protagonist, Ghyl, to rebel against this unjust system.

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Dredd 3D

Dredd 3D

The Hollywood Movie Factory has turned out another flick, helping to satiate the demand for competent but uninspired action vehicles conveniently forgettable enough not to take up valuable cerebral RAM for the long-term. This one is called Dredd 3D and is based on the same source material that spawned the Stallone production some years ago. I hardly remember the previous version, and I fully expect to have difficulties recalling the present one when, in a decade or two, they remake it. More interesting than the movie, however, are all the libertarian points it makes without any indication that it means to.

In the future, the United States has become an irradiated wasteland, save for a megacity that stretches from old Boston to old DC. A place of squalor and, one suspects based on general living conditions, a robust welfare state, 800 million inhabitants huddle together inside its protective walls, trying to eke out an existence while spawning the occasional mutant.

There are gigantic living centers hundreds of stories high where like classes of people are housed. These massive structures have all the hallmarks of government housing, from a disinterested janitorial staff to poorly maintained and infrequently cleaned premises to homeless squatters claiming filthy nooks and crannies. As one would expect, drug lords dominate in these neglected mini-cities.

Judge Dredd, a member of the police/military class, has the legal privilege to apprehend, try, and punish on his own authority. He takes a student out with him for a day, a young woman who cannot manage a passing grade at the academy but whose mutant psychic powers make her highly desirable for the force. In answering a police call, they enter Peach Trees, the name of one of the gigantic living complexes, and arrest a prominent member of a powerful drug gang. The local drug lord, fearing what information her subordinate will give away when he is interrogated, locks down the building and tries to eliminate the judges.

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